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Generel Electric v. Wabash (304 U.S. 364, 1938 May 16)

Decision Parameters

Decisions It Cites

Decisions That Cite It

    In re Swinehart [439 F. 2d 210, 1971]

Rules & Quotes

[DESCRIPTION] {1} The claim further states that the grains must be "of such size and contour as to prevent substantial sagging and offsetting" during a commercially useful life for the lamp. The clause is inadequate as a description of the structural characteristics of the grains. Apart from the statement with respect to their function, nothing said about their size distinguishes the earliest filaments, and nothing whatever is said which is descriptive of their contour (termed by the District Court a "very important element"), not even that they are irregular. The claim uses indeterminate adjectives which describe the function of the grains to the exclusion of any structural definition, and thus falls within the condemnation of the doctrine that a patentee may not broaden his product claims by describing the product in terms of function. Claim 25 vividly illustrates the vice of a description in terms of function. "As a description of the invention it is insufficient and if allowed would extend the monopoly beyond the invention." The Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit relied on the fact that the description in the claims is not "wholly" functional. 80 F.2d 958, 963. But the vice of a functional claim exists not only when a claim is "wholly" functional, if that is ever true, but also when the inventor is painstaking when he recites what has already been seen, and then uses conveniently functional language at the exact point of novelty.

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